LaHood, Quigley Introduce Legislation to Address Mishandling of Classified Documents

Government and Politics

March 24, 2023

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Darin LaHood (R-IL-16), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Mike Quigley (D-IL-05), founder of the Congressional Transparency Caucus, introduced the Classified Documents Accountability Act, to implement stronger enforcement for mishandling of classified documents. Currently, criminal penalties for mishandling classified documents must meet a high standard for prosecution. The Classified Documents Accountability Act would create civil penalties for individuals who are found to have removed or retained classified documents. The bill also establishes a formal logging and certification process for Presidents and Vice Presidents to turn over classified materials to the National Archives and Records Administration at the end of a presidential term.

“Any individual who handles classified material or documents is made aware of the safeguards, responsibility, and importance of protecting highly sensitive information, whether it’s high ranking government officials, Intelligence Committee members, or military officers,” said LaHood. “As a former state and federal prosecutor, I believe it has become clear that there must be reform and clearer penalties for individuals who mishandle classified information. Our bipartisan legislation will help better safeguard our nation and bring accountability to a vital process for our national security.”

“Recent events have shined a light on the need to implement penalties for top-level officials who inappropriately keep classified documents, regardless of their intent. There must be accountability for carelessness,” said Quigley. “Having served with Congressman LaHood on the Intelligence Committee, we both understand that anyone who has been entrusted with our nation’s secrets must treat them with the responsibility the American people have entrusted them with. This legislation will discourage sloppiness during transition periods, safeguard our national security, and keep Americans safe.”

Specifically, the Classified Documents Accountability Act:

Creates a civil penalty of up to $500,000 per violation for unauthorized removal or retention of classified documents or materials;

Creates a screening and certification process for classified materials during the transition period between administrations;

Requires the President and the Vice President, or their designee who is a federal public sector employee, to certify that they have not retained any classified materials; and

Creates penalties for an outgoing President or Vice President who does not submit certification, including a pension reduction of up to 50% and the suspension of office space, staffing, and travel allowances.